A Food Coma & A Day of Stockholm Searching. Day 57 & 58

A Food Coma & A Day of Stockholm Searching. Day 57 & 58

To explain the food coma. Following a breakfast in what can only be truly described as God’s country; where the air is damp with morning mist, the pine trees hang softly in the breeze and there really is a whisper of wonderment within the beautiful farmland of Fäviken, Jess and I are in desperate need of some sleep. We have journeyed for days just to get a glimpse of what we have experienced but even the mightiest foodies need a day of rest.

So that’s exactly what we had. Following another 8 hour train back to Stockholm we slept, and slept, and slept, and slept. Finally the time came when the day was new and we couldn’t waste another. Time to explore.

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The city of Stockholm is beautiful, reminding me very much of a medieval New Zealand. Mountains sit silent in the background whilst the city hums around us with construction, traffic and a million people on bikes. The weather is sharp but fair, a mild 12 degrees and much sunnier than any day we had in Mother Russia. The street is awash with tourists and locals alike, everybody seems to be headed in the same direction, The Kings Palace. Well that’s where we are off to so we can see the changing of the guard.

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We step into the courtyard of the giant monarch square, the walls are lined with windows and the light glimmers off the win…wait that glimmer isn’t from the windows, it’s from the razor sharp bayonets attached to the enormous rifles the kings guards are carrying. One guard stands at attention centre square whilst the crowds of camera flashing tourists mill around then he calls attention and the entire square falls silent. The 4th regiment fall in in single file. A drum beats in the background quietly at first, then the square erupts into marching music. The trumpets soar, the tuba bellows and the drums pound, it is a beautiful and proud display of the Stockholm monarch. An incredible spectacle to witness that made even this proud Aussie want to salute the blue and yellow flag.

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With the guard changed we decide to head deeper into wonderful old town, Gamla Stan. Cobblestone streets tap underneath our feet as the quaint little city opens up with vibrant coffee houses, art studios and boho street stores. It’s very beautiful. We drop in to a little cafe for a focaccia and of course run into some Aussies. One of which was madly working the sandwich press, thanks mate! I get some wonderfully squeaky house made haloumi with lemon zest and Jess gets a great Swedish combination of turkey, apples and oozey goat’s cheese. Tummies filled what else could we need? More food of course.

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Östermals Saluhall is the local markets. A bright store brimming with Swedish delights. Giant cured hams and reindeer legs, ocean fresh seafood and all the local produce one can imagine. I’m like a kid in a candy store, an octopus with eight arms reaching at everything, tasting, smelling. This is what the journey is about for me. I am building flavour memories. Jess is reading, looking at suppliers lists, taking loads of photos. We will create something out of this and you know it will be with food and dining. Stockholm breathes with beautiful churches, the opera house and some great architecture. I wish we had a little more time here to explore but we fly out tomorrow.

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Copenhagen calls.

Josh and Jess

Falling through the wardrobe. Our journey to Fäviken. Day 54, 55 & 56

Falling through the wardrobe. Our journey to Fäviken. Day 54, 55 & 56

Now I may make a few chronicles of Narnia references here because in all honesty it is the only way I can describe the untouched beauty that is Sweden and the lands surrounding our next dining destination, Fäviken. First we have to get there.

Our time in Moscow spent we are flying to Sweden with a quick stop in Copenhagen. I must tell you airport security is a serious deal in Russia, our bags are searched, rough looking Russian women pat us down in a variety of places! Then we go through a full body scan and passport check, now I am not complaining because I am happy to be safe on airplanes. I hate flying at the best of times. Time for takeoff, we wave a final goodbye to incredible Russia and before I know it we arrive in Copenhagen.

Ah beautiful Copenhagen, a new food capital of the world. I know this to be true because there is a store that sells premium caviar and champagne right here in the airport. We’ve got time for a few taste tests don’t we Jess? Then they tell us our flight is boarding for Sweden, what do you know? We are getting back on the exact same plane we just left. Russian babushkas jostle their ways to the front of the queues, enormous Swedish Vikings step through crowds like mighty oak trees. Jess and I simply huddle and swim with the rest of the little fish.

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Stockholm beams city lights below as we fly in for a gentle landing. We will be back to explore soon but we board our sleeper train to Äre and the adventure begins.

Now I use the word sleep in the broadest way possible. Sleeping on this train is in fact next to impossible. Pine trees whip by as we shake and rattle our way through mountain tracks and deep valleys. It is the equivalent of sleeping on one of those hideous roller coasters that Jess enjoys so much. Also there is a constant banging from the mirror that isn’t quite attached in our room. Jess is suspended on the third bunk high in the air, held by what looks like a repurposed car seat belt, I force my eyes closed on the bottom bunk, one hand on the ground to steady myself after rolling out of bed for the fifth time in the last hour. I have considered holding my breath in the hopes of slipping into unconsciousness but rolling over too fast and bashing my head on the overhead lamp has seen to that already. This is the beginning of our journey.

The hellacious night is over and we arrive like the walking dead in Äre. A little ski village nine hours from Stockholm. Now just to wait for our cab, it’s nine in the morning, he’ll be here at 4 30. We are in a rather mountainous location with our bags weighing a combined weight of around sixty kilos. Wonderful. Find me somewhere to sleep. Ah a nearby bus bench brings some relief until people start throwing us money because we look completely homeless. Maybe it’s the smell? The day drags out before finally our taxi arrives.

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On the road to Fäviken; the road twists and turns until it is nothing but a gravel track winding its way in and out of the mountain. Hoping to spot a mighty stag or perhaps even a wandering moose I glue my face to the window and watch the world go by. The leaves are an autumnal orange and the woods seem to sparkle from the sun overhead. Suddenly we are there. A red barn glows like the holy grail of food that it is. Warm fires crackle as we are met by the lovely Sara and shown to our room. This is Fäviken.

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The room is a cute little sleeping quarters with furs on the bed, it’s more like staying in someone’s home rather than a hotel. With only thirteen guests per evening it’s great to mingle and share a glass of champagne in the heat of the Swedish sauna. Regardless of the insane journey it took us to get here we are here. It is instantly worth it when I see the kitchen and get the opportunity to meet the wonderful chef Magnus Nilsson. We throw on our finest gear and get ready for what turned out to be one of the most amazing meals of my life. You can read all about it here.

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After such an incredible meal one would think we would be finished with eating for a while. Then came breakfast, once again we head back into the stunning dining room where there is an enormous spread laid out on the table in front of us. Ham from the estate, cured reindeer, a local cows milk cheese, a wild bird pate underneath a rich blackberry jelly, quail and chicken eggs from this mornings harvest, porridge made right in front of us, fresh juices and steaming hot Swedish coffee. There is also of course more bread with that fantastically rich cultured butter. It’s a spread.

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I never realised what an incredible start to the day pate on toast is. Mixed with estate ham and mounds of cultured butter my arteries may loath me but my stomach is utterly overjoyed. Quail eggs with all their lovely delicacy pair wonderfully with a little herb salt and some trout roe harvested at Fäviken. I love it here, if I could move in I would, I’d be a million kilos in less than six months but it would be a good six months.

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With breakfast finished we take another quick wander around the estate, scoping out some crates of wild garlic for chef and checking out the onions pulled fresh from the garden. Then it’s time for us to leave this wonderful place, it’s strange but I feel a sense of sadness leaving this place, the beauty is unmatched anywhere I have been in the world. I think in many ways it reminded me of home, maybe that’s why I’m not so keen to leave, but the journey must continue and Stockholm calls.

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Surely it must be nearly lunch time?

Josh and Jess

Fantasy. Dining @ Fäviken Magasinet

Fantasy. Dining @ Fäviken Magasinet

This is it, our quest for the perfect dining experience has brought us across seas of soup, through caverns of canapés and over mountains of meat but there is no journey nor meal that could prepare us for the foodie trip we are about to take. Tonight we dine in the middle of nowhere, home to Magnus Nilsson, this is Fäviken.

Located in Järpen on the 19th century Fäviken Egindom estate, which consists of 20,000 acres of farmland, this restaurant is truly in the middle of nowhere. Flying into Stockholm, Jess and I take a 9 hour train just to get close to this foodie dream. More on that story here.

The estate is like falling through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Pine trees hug the road as our taxi driver speeds along the gravely surface. Game birds dart from the scrub cunningly evading sight of the birds of prey circling over head. Then we arrive, the gorgeous farmhouse a cherry red dot in the distance. I instantly get butterflies of excitement, since reading Chef Nilsson’s book I have dreamt of dining here. This is the epitome of living the dream, for me this is what our journey is about and I’m so glad we can share it with all of you. We check into our room and prepare ourselves for dinner.

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Dinner at Fäviken is a ritual; thirteen lucky diners gather in the barn for canapés where we get to know each other. This review is going to be long so get your reading glasses on folks.

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Let’s begin.

Chef Nilsson meets us at the door, a warm handshake of my trembling digits and we get to have a quick chat. He smiles and says “nice to meet you, I hope you have fun tonight.” Then it starts. Canapés, flaxseed and vinegar crisps with mussel dip. Wow! The crisp is wafer thin and completely held together by a vinegar tuille. The tuille is almost a display in aerodynamics, and the mussel dip is an oceanic emulsion that is light and fluffy. I’m drinking a beer made from rhubarb on the estate and Jess is of course on Champagne.

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Chef Magnus enters the room and silence falls, a clap of the great chefs hands and he introduces our next course. A little lump of very fresh cheese served in warm whey with lavender. “This cheese is less than six minutes old” Nilsson explains “and is best eaten all in one go.” Yes chef! Down the hatch. The warm silky cheese is completely loved by the soft fragrance of dried lavender.

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We take a seat on fur covered couches and suddenly canapés arrive in force. A signature of Fäviken, wild trout’s roe served in a crust of dried pigs blood. Now we are into it. This is Rektùn, Nordic cuisine, the food of Sweden, we dine like Vikings. The roe is delightfully fresh and pops under tongue, the blood giving a richness and almost spiced note, very reminiscent of black pudding.

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My favourite canapé is next, Pig’s head, dipped in sourdough and then deep fried, pickled gooseberry and pine salt. Oh lord! Unbutton my trousers and give me a bag of these things, I could scoff them down like Cheetos! The pig is oozingly soft, the bread crisp and gold, the gooseberry and pine add a herbaceous tart note that brought everything together. Yum!

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Crispy lichens arrive on stone with a lightly soured garlic cream. The lichen themselves held a delicate flavour enhanced by shaved fish roe but the soured cream gave them a subtle richness that kind of made them the “chips and dip” of the incredible beginnings. Served alongside these are slices of cured sow. The sow is hand chosen by chef before being butchered, hung and cured by the kitchen.

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I need to tell you, I thought I had an understanding of paddock to plate. I mean I’ve foraged, I love to learn about where the food comes from. I know nothing. What Nilsson does here is something else. It is beyond paddock to plate, ingredients are chosen daily. Whether they’re grown on the estate and picked the night before, painstakingly hand foraged from beneath layers of frost or picked from a very limited list of suppliers the chefs know and trust. If it’s not the best it’s simply not good enough. It is a beautiful way to treat food and an inspiring vision for a restaurant.

The final canapé is salted herring, aged for three years, sour cream and rusks. Yes I said aged for three years. The dining room is filled with different hanging meats, fish and hams. Despite its age, the fish has a quite mild flavour, tamed with the cream and nutty rusk.

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It is time for us to move upstairs, the loft of the barn is transformed into a stunningly rustic dining room with the main theatre being a large wooden kitchen bench complete with a chopping block. Our first course is promptly served. Scallop “i skalet ur elden” cooked over burning juniper. No cutlery, the dish arrives branches still smoldering, we pry open the shell and see the ocean gem inside. A perfectly poached scallop cooked in a broth evoking the ocean. The scallop is meaty and soft, the broth, sweet and light. Together this dish is simply amazing. An inspired use of fantastic produce and wonderful Nordic technique. The juniper adds a floral bitterness that offsets the sweet scallop meat. I love this place.

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Continuing with seafood King crab, seared and sprayed with “attika” vinegar, almost burnt cream. This was one of Jess’s favourite dishes. The courage to serve a “burnt” sauce with such a premium ingredient is inspired. The crab is succulent and sweet, the cream is nut brown, kind of like a Buerre noisette flavour. The milk solids are lovely and caramelised and hey it’s a burnt sauce.

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Poached turbot comes paired with burnt shallots as well. The turbot is wonderfully soft with large white flakes feathering away from the fork, the onions are sweet and slightly smokey with an onion vinaigrette tying the dish together with a little acid.

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Cod and sunflower. Two ingredients, what a dish. The cod is cooked in a dry pan so the flesh is ever so slightly charred, the sunflower arrive in many textures. A paste that gives a nuttiness to the cods fattiness, fresh green sunflower seeds that were both textural and floral, and a vinaigrette of sunflower oil and juice. This dish was as if a fish had fallen into a veggie patch, it was nutty and vegetative along with being of the sea. A delight to eat.

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Palates beginning to swim with flavour combinations it’s time for another little rush of canapé sized course. A raw blue shell mussel filled with beer, dried birch leaf was a one bite flavour explosion. The mussel was so soft in texture it didn’t feel real, the beer has hoppy notes and the birch leaf brings everything down to earth.

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An insanely crisp and thin pie crust baked from pea flour is filled with eggs and seasoned with dried cods roe. The young pastry chef places the tiny quail eggs into the warmed crust as we pop them in our mouths and crunch before they simply disappear. This course seemed simple but simplicity can become extremely complex. The food here is a work of art.

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Barley pancakes filled with sour onions prove to be exactly as described, the onions are of numerous varieties including chive, onion flowers, spring onion and they are equally as enjoyable as each other. The barley is a warm toasty flavour I feel is completely under utilised in cuisines today.

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Suddenly a plate of leaves is put in front of us. Jess’s eyes bulge, I knew there would be challenges but this is leaf litter, this is natural to a whole new level. Thankfully chef explains that our next dish is buried beneath the leaves. We have to forage for our meal, the leaves are from the grounds, they’re covered with winter snow where they lay until the spring. This gives them an earthy characteristic and I’m not going to lie, they smell amazing. Underneath is the tiniest, cutest new potatoes, par boiled they have taken on the flavour of the leaves on top. They’re served with some of the best butter I’ve ever had. Cultured and of course house made, from milk the chefs milked from the cows this morning. This place is just amazing.

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Bite size courses end and in front of me is a porridge of grains and seeds from Jämtland finished with a lump of salty butter, fermented carrots and wild leaves, meat broth filtered through moss. Wow, this is insanely textural and delicious. Yes I said moss, not only does it freshen the broth, it adds a herb note unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. The fermented carrot is sour but fruity also and the butter gives everything a cultured flavour. I loved this dish, all the foraged herbs, the texture of the grains, everything in it was magical.

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Then it arrived. A huge, roasted femur of a cow, crackly and golden. The chefs place it on the chopping block and saw, scooping out freshly roasted bone marrow. This slippery goodness is then mixed with dices of raw cows heart, flower petals and herb salt. It is placed in front of Jess as she realises what she is about to eat. With surprisingly little hesitation she dives in. I am smearing the delicious mix into slices of sourdough toast and feeling more and more like a Viking with each bite. The heart is actually not a strong taste, it has a rather sponge like texture with a little chew, the marrow is soft and rich, the flowers and herbs bring a lightness to the dish. This was my favourite dish of the evening, the taste, the texture. I loved it.

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Still dominating my Viking feast the next course arrives, quail and bird cherries. The quail of course comes from the property and is served basically whole. Perfectly cooked with a crisp head on the side. The cherries are fruity and acidic, cutting through the rich quail meat. I even got to pick my teeth with the claws. Served with no cutlery of course this is another meal I was happy to be up to my elbows in. Served alongside was a little taste of the birds liver, pate en croute, thank you very much.

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With that course marking the end of the savoury courses it was time for a palate refresher. Cottage cheese, mushrooms and spruce. Yes a palate refresher. This was one of the most unusual cleansers I have ever eaten. The fresh cottage cheese had an acidic sourness and the raw mushrooms on top gelled with the spruce in a way that was oddly refreshing. My palate did indeed feel completely cleansed.

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The first sweet course is colostrum and meadowsweet. Arriving in tiny edible egg shells the colostrum has an almost quark or mascarpone flavour with the meadowsweet acting like a soft honey. For those of you unfamiliar, colostrum is the first cast of milk from a cow either in late pregnancy or just given birth. It is packed full of nutrients and antibodies and is in fact very good for you. Ok so it’s cow breast milk, lucky it’s delicious.

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Spoons arrive topped with lingonberries, thick cream, sugar and blueberry ice. The lingonberry are tiny pops of tartness with the wonderful luscious cream. The blueberry ice is exactly like a sorbet, except contains only the sugars from the blueberry themselves. It is very intense and almost earthy in flavour.

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A tiny little bowl of warm curd is next. It is in fact curdled woodruff milk. The woodruff is very grassy in flavour, the curd has a fluffy texture but it is a delightful little morsel and gives the innards a little warmth needed after the frozen sorbet.

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An egg yolk preserved in sugar syrup, served on a pile of crumbs made from pine tree bark, ice cream seasoned with meadowsweet. This is dessert. The egg yolk has an almost glass like exterior that the spoon cracks through, the crumb has a treacle like flavour and mixed with the meadowsweet ice cream the result is a soft, mushy dream like substance that Jess and I just could not stop eating.

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Our final course is prepared table side in front of us. Sour milk sorbet, raspberry jam and whisked duck eggs. Chef furiously churns the milk base into a light icy sorbet that is dropped into a fluffy, frothy duck egg sabayon. Underneath is a slightly sour raspberry jam that cuts through the rich duck egg wonderfully. It’s a fantastic finisher to what has been a divine meal.

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With full stomachs we retire downstairs for a selection of teas made from foraged ingredients on the premises. A seat on one of the comfy couches and we are presented with our final course this evening. The Fäviken sweet box. A wooden box filled with cured reindeer meat pies, raspberries ice, tar pastilles, meadowsweet candy, dried berries, sunflower seed nougat, anise seeds coated in crystallised honey and beeswax, smoked toffee, pine resin, cake. Yes as if we hadn’t eaten enough, the sweet box is ready for us to dive in. I go straight for a meat pie, I’m Aussie of course. The reindeer is so strong it nearly takes my breath away, much gamier than anything I have eaten before. The candies are sweet and with my tea made with birch, the immortality mushroom, and leaves from the garden the earthy sweetness rounds out what was an utterly unforgettable meal.

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The giant sweet box is accompanied by snus fermented in a used bitter barrel. A kind of chewing tobacco, that sticks underneath the front lip. It is very peppery and tastes a little dirty, still we are in Sweden and I want to try everything. Seated on warm furs chewing tobacco, drinking foraged tea. Then it gets better. Our charming sommelier takes us outside, the northern lights are vivid green in the night sky. This is incredible, a perfect way to round out what was an unforgettable experience that not only changed my way of thinking but will change the way I cook.

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Chef Nilsson and the team at Fäviken have created something truly unique and it is an experience that I don’t think we will ever match. From our arrival on the farm, the brilliant food and the incredible night sky to finish this is a once in a lifetime destination. Make the trip, step through the darkened pine forests, Trudge the mountain path.

It’s a beautiful world out there.
Dining at Fäviken has made me truly recognise this.

Josh and Jess

Dined 2nd October 2013

Fäviken Magasinet
Fäviken 216, 830 05 Jarpen, Sweden
http://www.favikenmagasinet.se

A taste of our travels

A taste of our travels

Josh is busy at work so I thought I would take this opportunity to give you a little history as to why we started this blog to begin with. Since travelling to Europe in July 2010, Josh and I got the travel bug. We entered three countries, five different cities, travelled on trains, planes and buses all in three weeks. We saw some of the most beautiful cities such as Paris and Florence, studied the history of Rome and relaxed in Barcelona and Nice. Even though it was only for a short time, we knew that one day we would go back and explore more of the world.

In October 2012 Josh entered a competition through Hunter TAFE NSW and HunterChefsCo named after one of Newcastle’s most successful chefs, Brett Graham. The prize, five thousand dollars to put towards the trip of a lifetime to London and work experience at Brett Graham’s The Ledbury, the number 13 restaurant in the world as judged by San Pellegrino. With a starter of scallop ceviche, baby beetroot, asparagus and golden beetroot air I knew that Josh would be in for a chance in the top three. Followed by blackened lamb neck for main course with carrot, eggplant and onion in textures, and mango cloud with raspberry gel and sugar coral for dessert, Josh was named the winner of the Brett Graham Scholarship 2012.

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With Josh’s dream of working alongside some of the most influential chefs in the world and my love for all things travel, we set out planning for four months abroad. Since I was very young, I had dreamed of visiting the USA so it was an easy decision to add this to our travels, along with Europe and the UK.

In early August we fly to San Fransisco. We drive down the west coast, finishing in Las Vegas before we fly to Chicago, Niagara Falls, Washington D.C. and New York. From here it’s the east coast we’ll drive stopping in Charleston, Orlando and finally Miami. America may not be in everybody’s top destinations but with restaurants such as The French Laundry (Napa Valley), Alinea (Chicago) and Eleven Madison Park (New York) we knew we could not pass it up. And I can’t pass up Harry Potter Wizarding World in Orlando either!

From here it’s over to Europe and what better way to begin than with a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. A short stay in Zurich Switzerland, St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia and Stockholm, Sweden lands us at Faviken. If you have not heard of this restaurant than I suggest you pick up a copy of his cookbook. Josh is probably most excited to visit Magnus Nilsson’s beacon restaurant for the opportunity to eat delicacies such as ‘scallops cooked over burning juniper’. A short travel south into Denmark leads us to the next restaurant on our bucket list, Noma.

London is calling from here and with Josh working at The Ledbury, it will give me an opportunity to plan the next leg of our trip. Go with the flow is what we are going to live by in the final weeks of our travels, we have nothing planned yet but know that the rest of the United Kingdom, Venice Italy, Dubrovnik Croatia and Istanbul Turkey are high on the list. Also with restaurant reservations at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (London), St Johns by Fergus Henderson (London) and Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain) we know that it really will be thetraveltotaste. So let the search begin for the perfect dining experience….

Jess and Josh